Tracie Willis

Entrepreneur Extraordinaire

Sometimes adversity brings out the best in people. Take Tracie Willis, for example. Some 18 years ago, she found herself at a crossroads with only $1,000 USD in her pocket, wondering whether to leave nearby Sayulita and return to her homeland, or purchase a freezer. She chose the latter, in just a few years transforming a cottage industry experiment into what would become a true Puerto Vallarta staple: the chocobanana.

Canadian-born Willis had worked as a casino dealer on one of the many cruise ships that began doing the Pacific Riviera rounds back then. Dismissed for denouncing the ship for dumping garbage at sea, she settled in Sayulita. Inspired by chocolate-covered fruit she had sampled in Guatemala, she pieced the ingredients together using local resources and rented her neighbor’s kitchen (and freezer!) space. Armed with a cooler — the same one that appears in this photograph, in fact — she took to the beach in 1991, first in Sayulita, and then in Puerto Vallarta, becoming the first non-Mexican ever to be issued a full license to sell goods on the beach, a process that took two years of hard work. Formal shops followed, first in Sayulita and then on Pulpito street near Los Muertos.

Fifteen years and thousands of chocobananas later, business is booming, Willis’ dream now relying on a staff of 16 Sayulita folk to meet demand. With plans to begin franchising the brand throughout Mexico right around the corner, Willis takes pride in her success, proving that when an idea is original and its execution is steadfast, its ensuing success is virtually inevitable.